What can the private aviation industry learn from Thomas Cook’s demise?


This past week Thomas Cook ceased to exist after 178 years of operations. It’s not the first time a major player declares in bankruptcy and, in fact, without going any further, in the past week alone three other European airlines grounded all flights due to economic inconsistencies: French Aigle Azur and XL Airways and Slovenian Adria Airways.

We live in a shared economy where consumer habits are very different from 50 years ago, when travel packages and agents ruled the holiday market. Today, consumers seek to tailor their own holiday, especially flights. There are many variables that play into Thomas Cook’s demise, don ́t get me wrong, from low consumer confidence due to Brexit, dropping value of the British pound and high Fuel prices, but none as important as the lack of awareness or resistance to change. Why amend a model that has been successful for almost two centuries, right?

Furthermore, new generations are playing a key role in how companies need to market their services and communicate their core values. The millennial generation should ring a bell. Moved by new experiences rather than tradition, and acquiring services solely through digital means, this growing group of young adults with financial capacity does not plan their next flight or holiday through a travel agent. Those days are long gone. A big miss by Thomas Cook.

Private Aviation

On the other end of the runway lies the private aviation model, AKA business aviation or executive aviation. With increasing levels of accessibility, flexibility and competitive prices, very far away from the luxury that once ruled this segment. And new players and business models have appeared in the market to democratise this sector, thanks in part to the overall inefficiency of commercial aviation, although I must say that the likes of Southwest, Ryanair and EasyJet have done an incredible job to make affordable and accessible by the mass an industry that was one associated and available to the rich and famous only.

Is it now high time to perhaps do the same for the private aviation industry, which is still approximately 15-20 years behind the commercial industry in terms of efficiency, technology, accessibility and affordability. It’s the case of Firnas Private, previously known as Firnas Airways, a UK based private air transport operator with a commitment to entirely adapt to the client’s needs by understanding each touchpoint, identifying inefficiencies that cause skyrocketing prices and addressing them. Private Aviation is of course generally more affordable in the US and is far more accessible than Europe, however the market in Europe is giving all the signals that it is ready for the disruption and so are we; Europe is a very unique market with distinctive challenges and one has to be from Europe to really understand it.

That flexibility and co-creation of value drives today’s travel and hospitality industry; from the booking process to the arrival to destination. Passengers have a voice and it’s the company’s responsibility to listen and act. These are the building blocks of private aviation. It’s called shared economy for a reason . . .

What has that have to do with private aviation? Well, private flight made a shift towards technology during the past decade. Many startups realised that a change was needed, and that clients weren’t picking up the phone to charter a jet, but rather were seeking those providers with online booking systems, instant quotes and various payment methods, even cryptocurrencies. All actions supported by millennials’ consumer preferences.

The private aviation industry can rest assured that the route it has taken to entice travelers is sustainable and fully transparent, guided by a flexible business model that allows companies evolve at the same pace as its customers.

As sad as it sounds, Thomas Cook invested more resources in tradition than in listening to its clients and the overall travel market; will other major carriers make it in time?